A Model for Feminist Workplace Education
by Jan Kutcher and Eleanor C. Ross
The University Preparation Course in Women's Studies is a non-credit program sponsored by the Corporation of the City of Toronto and the Municipality of Metropolitan Toronto. Designed for women employees who have not had the opportunity to attend university, it addresses the important equity goal of increasing the representation of women in management by providing access to higher education in the workplace.
Research has shown that "women's education levels are the single most significant factor in predicting whether any individual woman will gain access to high quality continuing employment" (1). Statistics at the Municipality of Metropolitan Toronto indicate that although women make up 51 % of the corporate workforce, they hold only 14.5% of senior management positions (2).
There are no formal prerequisites; the course is open to all women irrespective of educational credentials. Many do not have the necessary requirements for admission to university and some have entered the program with only elementary school education. Regardless of educational level, most participants have been out of the classroom for a long time and are eager to brush up their reading and writing skills and find out whether they have the capacity and desire to pursue a university level education.
The primary educational objective of the program is to improve women's reading, writing, speaking and analytical skills. Course assignments include regular readings, essay writing and oral presentations. Participants learn how to read critically, how to organize their thoughts on paper, how to construct convincing arguments to support a central thesis and how to make effective and articulate verbal presentations. The readings, writing and presentation demands begin gently and increase throughout the course as the confidence and academic ability of the women grow.